My neighbour Mendy has a ritual every 2nd night Yom Tov. At around 10pm, he comes over to ask for a light.
“Mendy, you really ought to quit smoking!” I jibe him.
“Nah, mate,” he responds, “I really ought to remember to light the yortzeit candle before Yom Tov.”
The Mishnah states: [On Yom Tov] we may not produce fire from wood, nor from stone, nor from earth, nor from tiles, nor from water.
“What is the reason?” asks the Talmud. After all, we are allowed to prepare food on Yom Tov including Shabbos-proscribed activities such as carrying and cooking. Why can’t we kindle a fire?
The Talmud answers: Because we are creating.
On Yom Tov, we are allowed to transfer a fire from a preexisting flame, hence why Mendy comes over to get a light for his Yom Tov candles. But we may not kindle a flame because that is creating something anew.
This piece in the Talmud resolves the common misconception regarding abstaining from “work” on Shabbos and Yom Tov.
“Rabbi, it’s really no work for me to carry my tallis to shul. Why would G-d care?”
The answer is that it is not about work at all. I can schlep a table up from my basement when I realize that my regular dining table won’t suffice for the extra Shabbos guests. But I may not flick on a light switch on Shabbos. It’s not about work; it’s about creative activity.
G-d created the world in six days. On the seventh, He rested. What’s up with that – does G-d get tired?!?
Of course not! On the seventh day, He continued His task of sustaining and maintaining the world, but He rested from creation. And therefore, on Shabbos, we too refrain from creative activity. Thus, creating an electric current by flicking on the light is prohibited, while schlepping a table is totally fine.
The Almighty wants you to be creative! He created you in His image to maximize your creative potential six days a week. But one day a week, you must stop and reflect on who you are, why you are here and ensuring that you are not neglecting your spirituality.